Civil Rights Advocates Urge Legislature To Protect Voting Rights of All Mainers
Disenfranchising Some Incarcerated Individuals Would Undermine Democracy
March 4, 2013
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Augusta – Representatives of the ACLU of Maine, the NAACP and the Maine Council of Churches will hold a press conference Monday to call on legislators to reject proposed legislation that would take voting rights away from some incarcerated people in Maine. The groups oppose LD 573, which would take away the right to vote from people serving time in a correctional facility for a Class A crime.
"Voting is the cornerstone of democracy and a fundamental constitutional right, and we are stronger as a society when more people participate in the voting process," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. "As a state that leads the way on voting rights and takes great pride in civic participation, we should not undermine this essential freedom."
Laws to limit voter participation have a disproportionate affect on communities of color and poor people, who are incarcerated at higher rates. Nationwide, African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites according to the national NAACP.
"It's hard to believe that in 2013 we are considering the creation of a law that would have such a disproportionate and negative effect on poor people and people of color," said Rachel Talbot-Ross, president of the NAACP of Greater Portland. "We cannot conscionably penalize entire communities by reducing their political power and their voice in the political decisions that affect them. This law would be a giant step backward for Maine."
Maine is one of two states that allow individuals to vote while incarcerated. The Maine Legislature has rejected six attempts to restrict those freedoms since 1999.
"When we cast a ballot, we are immediately reminded of the effects our decisions have on our fellow citizens," said Leslie Manning, president of the Maine Council of Churches. "We are all better served by policies that give individuals a greater stake in their community to facilitate more successful rehabilitation and reentry."
A hearing on LD 573 will take place today at 1:00 before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. The press conference is at 12:30 p.m. in the State House Welcome Center.